In November 1967 SAAB introduced the 99. It was revolutionary in design in a socially turbulent time, and would serve for a quarter of a century as the basis for the heart of the SAAB program. Today, the basis of the 99 still looks modern in some respects, and it combines that qualification with classical elements. At Gerard Kramer Classics in Wolvega we found a pearl from the penultimate year of construction of the 99: a white SAAB 99 GL 5 Speed from 1983 with only 170.000 kilometers of life experience.
The SAAB impresses with its wedge-shaped and distinct lines. With its white color with black accents. It is a beautiful, tectyl and stainless example, which became even tastier thanks to the installation of the light-alloy American Turbo rims. The SAAB shows us those typical gadgets, such as the cut-out sills, the electrically thermostatically controlled seat heating, and the wipe/wash installation on the headlights. The folding rear seats, no custom in a two-door model. This SAAB 99 GL 5 Speed is equipped with the 45 degree tilted 1985 cc H engine with one horizontal Zenith Stromberg carburettor. It is a very reliable, fine and quiet four-cylinder block with two valves per cylinder and a power delivery of up to 100 HP. Moreover, black sludge is largely out of the question with this early H variant.
Upright and rock solid
When we step into this SAAB 99 GL 5 Speed, the rock-solid feeling of the construction immediately reveals itself. Immediately there is the recognition. The sit up straight, the excellent position in relation to the steering wheel, the experienced space, the perfect placement of buttons and levers, the all-round view, the position of the pedals and the excellent furniture (with safety seats) provide the necessary anticipation. In that same interior reveals the dashboard that was built in this SAAB long ago. The instrument panel, the clock shop, the narrow cut, the hand choke, the cabinet of curiosities of knobs that are all different from each other and the patina wood strip: they are at odds with the body design of the SAAB 99 and that gives the car historical shine, which on the outside is enhanced by the shock-absorbing bumpers, also children of their seventies and eighties.
Excellent service, strong feeling
We're going to drive. You look in vain for an ignition lock on the steering column. It is located between the front seats. The H-power source is running, the operation of the perfectly functioning heating is now child's play. We bring the gearbox into its first gear. Then it immediately appears that the long poker is perfectly within reach. The gears can be operated – as it turns out on the way – with pleasantly long strokes and a pleasant form of counter pressure. The interplay with the clutch that offers a lot of feeling is flawless. And that applies to the entire operation of the car. The braking system is well suited to its task, the steering system obeys the commands obediently.
High degree of stability
The straight-ahead stability is even excellent, even on bad road surfaces. The chassis monitors the balance between a resolute damping and the smooth spring characteristic in that situation excellent. This designation also applies in terms of crosswind sensitivity. The wide track, chassis and weight ensure that the sharply windy Saturday before that decent gusts of wind do not get a hold of the SAAB 99 GL 5 Speed. Also nice: with the SAAB 99 you can safely take a big bend at speed. When you accelerate in that situation when rounding a solid curve, you notice that the front-wheel drive SAAB remains neutral for a long time, before any understeer manifests itself. The whole is accompanied by a carriage that only slightly tilts late.
Safe and smart on all fronts
Not only the active safety impresses. The credentials on passive safety are also recorded with the correct pen by the manufacturer. Crumple zones, reinforcement bars in the doors, a safety steering column, continuous A-pillars: these are just a few of the features that the SAAB Elk proof to make. You can feel it in everything, the 99 is extremely well constructed and offers optimum protection against external calamities.
The unblown power unit in the SAAB 99 GL 5 Speed captivates. He does not invite the driver to drive on the cutting edge. Besides the fact that a consumption of 1 in 10 can be achieved with a quiet driving style, the car - witness a factory specified top of 165 kilometers per hour - is not a cock-of-the-head. Not necessary. From 3500 rpm, a suitable acceleration is also possible, but in combination with the longer transmission ratios of the five-speed gearbox, the 1985 cc H engine mainly encourages calm, while the torque reserve quietly waits to be used. When that happens, the SAAB does make itself heard, but it does not become a nuisance. Certainly not.
We feel comfortable in the SAAB 99 GL 5 Speed. Both indoors and on the highway, the car feels extremely comfortable, especially at normal speeds. In that case, there is certainly still a stretch in the performance curve, but we are not challenging the SAAB. That is not necessary. He offers autonomy, without displaying the urge to manifest. No clumsy left lane stuff, but high level, dignity and class, a lot of class. They are pure ingredients for the independent rider spirit.
This late and mature 99 shows that the model is one of the better built and most original cars in history. A car that still has some timeless features. Even so, a SAAB 99 in our maritime climate is ultimately not insensitive to rust (rear wheel arch edges, sills, bottom doors, chassis beam in the engine compartment, shock absorber mounting points). So nurture, maintain and conserve. When you do that, you will enjoy it for years to come. You're hooked on it anyway if you've ridden it. Without a time determination attached to that affection. If you are good for a SAAB then it will give you life. And that certainly applies to this beautiful SAAB 99 GL 5 Speed, which has now found a new owner.
With many thanks to Gerard Kramer Klassiekers, Wolvega